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Jeffrey S. Sanders, Vice Chairman and Managing Partner of the North American CEO Practice for Heidrick & Struggles, an AESC member executive search and leadership consulting firm, recently analyzed the careers of all current Fortune 500 CEOs in an article at Forbes.com.

Aspiring CEOs need to create a path for themselves to become a potential CEO candidate. What does this path look like?

  • 30% of Fortune 500 CEOs began their careers in finance
  • 20% began their careers in sales and marketing
  • Even though finance is an important building block, only about 5% were promoted directly from CFO
  • More than half were promoted from the role of COO or President
  • Most companies value financial acumen, but above all, they value a strong operator

The article reports that executives rarely arrived at CEO from a finance role, with a few exceptions. Instead, more than three quarters came from an operating role.

  • Consulting at 4% ranked the least common early career experience among CEOs
  • More than three-fourths of today's top leaders were appointed internally
  • Less than a third of CEOs were "lifers" (those who had spent nearly their entire career at the company)
  • Average time to CEO appointment when rising through the ranks = 16 years
  • Average age at CEO appointment = 50
  • Technology offers the fastest path to CEO
  • Industrial companies offer the slowest path to CEO
  • About 45% of CEOs served as non-executive directors on public company boards before being named CEO

About BlueSteps
BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 8,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 75,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.

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